Afterglow

Birthday Eve, in the year of COVID-19. Tomorrow I will turn 59; although it’s actually my sixtieth birthday (you aren’t born aged one; so your birthday actually ends the year which age you are supposedly turning; this is the start of my sixtieth year, which actually will end on August 20, 1961, when I “turn” sixty).

So, today is Wednesday but my Friday, since I am taking a long birthday weekend to luxuriate in the joys of being Greg, and I am going to head into the office rather than work at home today (the stuff I usually do in the office on Thursday I will have to do today). I’m also going to pick up my prescriptions and run by the post office at some point today as well.

The Australian publisher ClanDestine Press announced the table of contents for The Only One in the World: A Sherlock Holmes Anthology, which is the anthology that features my story “The Affair of the Purloined Rentboy;” you can access the press release here. I am very proud of this story, and am equally excited to be in this anthology. As I have explained before, Sherlock is a bit out of my wheelhouse, so I had to push myself and stretch a bit to get the story done. Overall, I greatly enjoyed the experience, and now find myself sometimes looking into the possibility of writing another such story. I really like the 1916 universe of New Orleans I created for the story, and that was such an interesting period of New Orleans history–so much going on, really, and so much material to choose from–that I will probably write some more about the period, if not with Holmes/Watson centered in the story. The press release was a lovely thing to wake up to this morning.

I am feeling oddly rested this morning, despite waking up multiple times during the night and staying up later than I should have to continue streaming The Morning Show. I am telling y’all, this show is terrific, and the cast is amazing. I marvel at Jennifer Aniston’s performance in every episode, but the entire cast is terrific, and the writing is superb. We’ll probably finish watching tonight, and I sure hope there’s going to be a second season.

And after today, I am of course on the mini-staycation I mentioned earlier. I am going to try to get some work done when I get home from the office–I’d really rather not spend my birthday cleaning the house–and I am debating whether or not I should actually try to get some work done on Bury Me in Shadows on my birthday. I don’t see why I shouldn’t; I would dearly love to spend my birthday doing things I enjoy, and I actually enjoy writing. I would love to finish reading Lovecraft Country, and possibly some short stories (I am so behind on The Short Story Project it isn’t even funny) and I may–I know, I know–spend some time working on the top drawer of the filing cabinet. I actually enjoy organizing and getting my filing system under control and into some sort of actual working shape would be marvelous; almost like a birthday gift to myself.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader!

 

The Truck Driver and His Mate

And somehow here we are at Friday again. Christ, these weeks seem to last forever, and yet somehow I still manage to get so very little fucking done. It seems as though every Friday morning I find myself staring into the gaping maw of my email inbox, with so many emails to answer and some not only need to be answered by require me to do something; to look something up; to verify something; or make some sort of decision. I’m trying very hard not to make myself crazy (crazier, at any rate) and yet…and other emails are getting pushed down further into my inbox, and I know what I really need to do is reverse the order so that the oldest ones are at the top, but I shudder at the very thought of that. And yet, realistically, I know I have to do that one morning and deal with those emails, because with every day they become that much older.

Yesterday was exhausting. By the time I got home–after making works bags all afternoon for the needle exchange and gathering today’s supplies for condom packing (I have calls to make today, so rather than watching my next selected films–Alien and Aliens back to back on HBO MAX–I will be talking on the telephone as I make my condom packs, at least for part of the day; multi-tasking, as it were). And when quitting time rolls around later this afternoon, rather than curling up with Blacktop Wasteland, as I would much rather prefer, I am going to have to start the heavy lifting on the revisions of chapters one thru ten of Bury Me in Shadows, because in order to remain on schedule with it I need to have that finished by Sunday evening in order to begin work on chapters eleven through twenty.

Heavy heaving sigh.

I wonder if I will ever reach a point in my life where I don’t feel crushing guilt for not responding to emails within five minutes of their reception; for not having the energy after a lengthy day at the office or of doing day-job activities at home to work on my writing or read a book; for not having the drive to get things done, for not always being in motion, for not being, basically, a Stepford wife. My apartment is a disaster area, there’s another load of dishes to be done, and its Friday, the day I usually launder the bed linens. The car has a tire with a slow leak in it, so at some point I need to find the time to head over to a gas station to refill the tire with air, and also need to find the time to take it back into the dealership to have the tire dealt with, as well as have routine maintenance done. I am sleeping deeply and well every night, but so deeply that every morning I could probably, if I could, sleep several hours more and my body harbors a resentment towards my brain for forcing my body out of the bed and pouring coffee down its throat and trying to get some kind of grip on the day ahead. Even as I sit here typing I can see the number changing on the tab where my email inbox is opened; possibly more junk to simply be deleted, but there will inevitably be something in there I need to read, that will need to be responded to, will perhaps require me to think or take some kind of further action.

Partly this malaise I feel this morning is inevitably connected to the relief that the lumps in my pectorals are nothing more than genetic fatty deposits hardening into cysts that do not endanger my health nor require any further action or activity on my part; while I was doing my best to repress those worries and push them down deep into my brain and consciousness, the worry and stress wasn’t gone, and the feeling of relief has released a lot stress I wasn’t aware I was carrying. There’s probably some other sort of cathartic release of pent-up stress and energy I could and should be doing; that might help me get motivated and stop feeling so defeated every day.

And I probably should get back into therapy, if I only could carve that time out in my weeks.

Part of it has to do, I am certain, with the sense that I am not organized; but I am also very well aware that even should I carve a day out to get organized it won’t help at all with the sense of drowning and being overwhelmed; the feeling that I have that each limb and appendage is tied to a horse facing a different direction and someone is about to fire the starting pistol. And yet, even now, as the coffee and caffeine from my first cup courses through my veins and my mind begins to throw off its sluggishness and that melted feeling begins to fade from my muscles, I am aware that all the things that I allow to frustrate me (I wish I had a place where I could spread the manuscript out and piece it back together after tearing it all apart and I wish I had enough space for all my books and I wish I could rearrange my time so that I had time for everything I need to get done and I wish I could stop being so lazy or at least stop imagining and believing that I am lazy and I wish I had more self-confidence and I wish I could I wish I wish I wish) can neither be helped nor changed by simply wishing it to be so, and therefore allowing these immutable, unchangeable facts about my current situation in life to defeat or frustrate me is, ultimately, self-destructive (a regular pattern in my life deeply rooted in my consciousness from being told repeatedly that I was a loser so I started believing it, believed it for years, and revert to that mentality frequently whenever under stress or pressure) and a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So, instead I should be looking back at this past year and what I have accomplished. I have had any number of successes with short stories, giving the lie to the insidious belief that I am not a good short story writer. Just this week I sold another one, “The Snow Globe”; I had two come out in anthologies around the same time (“The Silky Veils of Ardor” in The Beat of Black Wings: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Music of Joni Mitchell and “The Dreadful Scott Decision” in The Faking of the President); I sold “The Carriage House” to Mystery Tribune and Night Follows Night” to an anthology titled Buried; I pushed myself by writing a Sherlock Holmes pastiche, “The Affair of the Purloined Rentboy,” to The Only One in the World anthology; and my story “A Whisper from the Graveyard” was sold to an anthology I really need to follow up with, as I’ve not heard anything about it in quite some time. I still have two out on submission, but those are both long shots I don’t have a lot of confidence will land–and that is not self-deprecation; both are fine stories, but are undoubtedly buried in piles of hundreds of submissions, hence the strong possibility they won’t be sold. Both stories are works I am pleased with, “Moves in the Field” and “This Thing of Darkness,” and while the short story market has certainly dried up dramatically since I started publishing, I enjoy writing stories and would love to publish more of them.

But I need to get Bury Me in Shadows finished and turned in, so I can get the Kansas book worked on one more time and turned in as well, and then I can get going on Chlorine. I can get everything done that I need to get done, and need to stop allowing negativity to creep into my brain; there’s enough negativity in life already that I don’t need to create my own.

And so I am going to go get my second cup of coffee, and I am going to start digging through the emails. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader, and remember–don’t let anyone, especially yourself, hold you back.

My October Symphony

At this point in the summer, the cool warmth of October seems a distant futuristic dream. It’s always that way in August, and I no longer have Southern Decadence to look forward to; and haven’t in years. There’s no Decadence this year, of course, thanks to the pandemic, but I have also not participated in the madness of wild partying over the course of that weekend in over a decade. My participation has been primarily limited to passing out condoms on Friday night before escaping to the deep cool of my air conditioned home for the rest of the long weekend.

But my, did I used to have a great time during Southern Decadence! (See: Bourbon Street Blues.)

We started watching Babylon Berlin last night, at long last, and are already quite mesmerized. It’s a fascinating period–pre-Nazi/post first war Berlin was quite decadent, if you believe freedom from repression of all kinds is decadent. I’ve read very little about this period, although I have read Isherwood and of course I’ve seen Cabaret about a million times, but other than as a prologue to the rise of Hitler and Nazism in histories of the second World War, I’ve not really read a lot about that period of Germany’s past; certainly not anything that goes to any great depth. I also have a copy of the book somewhere; I’ve always meant to get to it as well as other books set in Europe during the same period. I don’t read nearly as much historical fiction anymore as I used to, or as much as I would like; I’m not really sure why that is. I love to read, I love to write, and I love history, so one would think art forms that combine those things would be something I would be all over, and yet–I’ve written precisely two short stories set in the past, and not even that distant. “The Weight of a Feather” is set in the 1950’s during the gay purge of the government, and of course, “The Affair of the Purloined Rentboy” (which might be my favorite title of anything I’ve ever written), is set in 1915 or thereabouts; a nebulous period of time during which the Great War was raging in Europe but the United States had yet to get involved. I have some things in progress that are historicals, or period pieces, or whatever may have you; the one I am really itching to sink my teeth into is a story set in Black Death era Rome, “The Arrow in the Cardinal’s Cap.” But I really need to be focusing as much creative energy on Bury Me in Shadows as I can right now, and so everything else isn’t going to get any real attention for the next few weeks or so. My plan is to, of course, do my day job to the best of my abilities, try to keep treading water as far as emails and everything else is concerned, and focus as much as possible on the manuscript. It’s in decent shape but very rough; the skeleton is there, but there are bones that need to be removed and replaced, others that simply need to be reset, and I also somehow have to manage a soul-transplant; replacing the one I originally created for the book with a completely new one–and these are all tricky things to manage that will require focus and energy.

And of course, one of the best things for stoking my creativity is to read really good writing, and I have Blacktop Wasteland to not only read and savor, but take inspiration from as well.

Then again, you never know.

We also finished I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, which was really quite lovely; I’m not certain that I want to read the book now, but I might. I’m not a huge reader of true crime–which doesn’t, when you think about it, make a lot of sense–and there’s so much else for me to read that I am behind on–oy, the ever-growing TBR pile in my house is as out of control as kudzu in rural Alabama–but I know I really need to start reading more of it. I think one of the main reasons I avoid it is fear that I’ll want to adapt it into fiction–just as Ethan Brown’s Murder in the Bayou sort of inspired what might eventually become another Chanse novel–and I’m not really all that interested in serial killers or rapists, if I’m going to be completely honest. I’ve toyed with the idea for a serial killer novel for quite some time now–and it has occurred to me that setting it in the past, when people weren’t quite as aware of them as we are now and before the creation of profilers (although I wanted to include a profiler who was wrong about everything in this one) might be a better way to go with it–but I’m not really sure I am the right person to write such a book.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines.

The View from Your Balcony

And here we go, Sunday and a new week. Huzzah, I suppose.

Yesterday was actually a very good day. Not only did I manage to get some work done on the Secret Project, I got some excellent work done on the Secret Project. It was quite a relief, actually; I’ve tried this first fucking chapter I don’t know how many times and could never get it right; plus I could never get the voice right, it seemed. I despaired, in fact, that I would ever get this under control. But yesterday I opened the most recent draft of the first chapter, started reading it, and thought oh no this will NOT do at all and started fixing it; reordering things, and finding the character’s voice in the process. Before I knew it several hours had passed and not only had I gotten the first chapter under control and whipped into shape, I’d managed to do the same with the second.

This was, as you can imagine, an enormous relief. I can’t speak for other authors, but I always fear it’s going to go away–the ability to construct decent stories and realistic characters and how to write something good, quite frankly. It’s why lovely feedback, like I got recently with the two short stories I sold, is so beneficial and helpful; it also always seems to come around when I need it the most.

It also helps that I wasn’t distracted, and could absolutely focus on what I was doing. Focus is so crucially important, and I have so little time where I can actually sit at my computer, ignore the cat’s whines for attention, and focus on what I’m doing; whenever I can I see everything so clearly and the work is so much better. The times, alas, this year when I have that ability, that clarity of focus, to write, seem to be few and far between.

I did also realize this morning as I lay in bed lazily waiting for the mood to get up to strike, that I am well on my way to having another collection of previous published short stories ready. Granted, some of them haven’t seen print yet–and might not until next year–but some of them have: “The Silky Veils of Ardor”, “The Affair of the Purloined Rentboy”,”This Town”, “The Carriage House”, “Night Follows Night”, “The Dreadful Scott Decision”–and there are three more still out on submission, although one has already been accepted, but I have no idea when that will ever see print–“A Whisper from the Graveyard”–and the other two–“Moves in the Field” and “This Thing of Darkness” will inevitably and undoubtedly be rejected; those two were submitted to literary fiction markets and we’ve already ascertained , numerous times throughout my life, that I am not a literary writer. There may even be more that I am not even thinking about right now–I’m still on my first cappuccino, don’t you dare judge me–but that’s nearly ten stories, and I generally think of a collection being somewhere between sixteen to twenty; unless there’s a novella included. (I’ve decided that “Once a Tiger,” the Chanse short story, is really a novella, and if I ever do finish writing it–and the other novellas–I’ll probably just bind them all into one volume.)

Last night we finished watching Dark, which is superb (it’s so good it deserves its own entry) and then we watch Andy Samberg’s Palm Springs on Hulu, which was a cute little piece of fluff with some truly funny moments, and then moved onto another Mexican crime show, Dark Desire, which also stars Alejandro Spietzer, the gorgeous actor (pictured below) who was also the star of The Club–and is also dating Ester Exposito, who played Carla so superbly in Elite. It’s quite interesting so far–we’re two episodes in–and will continue with it. It’s so weird how we pay more attention to foreign language shows because of having to read the subtitles, while if whatever we are watching is in English, I’ll periodically reach for the iPad.

I’m also having dinner with a writer friend tonight who is in from out of town; so I need to make sure I get all the chores finished and get the rest of these chapters done on the Secret Project, so I can start writing the proposal and then it’s out of my damned hair.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader.

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To Face the Truth

Friday afternoon and I am taking a bit of a break. Non-stop emails, it seems, today, along with laundering the linens and doing some cleaning and about five minutes ago I realized dude, you’ve not had anything to eat today, so maybe take a break and eat something.

There’s been a watermelon sitting on the kitchen counter for a few days now, and it sounded like the right thing, so I went ahead and cut that sucker open and am currently in the process of eating an enormous slice. I’ve always loved watermelon, and one of the (few) things I miss about spending the summers in the back country of Alabama was watermelon right off the vine. There’s just nothing better on a hot, sticky summer afternoon in the Alabama countryside, really. I was also remembering the other day about how we used to go into the woods behind my grandmother’s house to pick wild blackberries.

Ah, for simpler times, when I didn’t have to worry about cleaning the house or paying the bills or cooking.

You know what, though? I prefer my life now. I’ve never really understood nostalgia for the past, really.

But I’ve gotten a lot done today, although I kind of feel like I’ve run out of steam. I took out the recycling; cleaned my new milk frother (now I can’t wait to use it; my old one wasn’t working right, in other first world problem news); I am laundering the linens; I shaved and showered; and like I said, I got a lot accomplished via email. I’m also feeling fairly rested–my shoulder is still sore from the vaccination, but that too shall pass. I also have a massive bruise from where they drew blood from me yesterday; but hey, I’m happy to settle for a bruise. My veins always used to roll; maybe that’s changed as I’ve grown older and the veins have gotten too lazy–and just lay there now with a “fuck it, go ahead and pierce me” attitude. But seriously, they used to have to dig around trying to get the needle in the vein, and trust me, I can live with them going right in and just leaving a bruise.

Such as the ways my mind meanders on a restful vacation day at home.

But I signed the contract for my Sherlock story and emailed it off (I just love my title: “The Affair of the Purloined Rentboy”) and I am now working on the filing, trying to resist the siren song of my easy chair.

But the watermelon and memories of summers in Alabama also put me in mind of Bury Me in Shadows, which has been languishing while I should be working on the Secret Project; which must be finished this weekend so I can get back to work on that book, else I may not have a book out again next year. THE HORROR! And I know how to fix it now, which makes all the difference in the world.

And now I am heading to the easy chair and taking an email/social media break other than blogging all weekend.

Silver Age

Well, that’s that; the Sherlock story is finished. I have turned in my author bio, an author’s note to go along with the story, and now just have to wait for the rest of the process to be completed. Over all, other than my initial stress over whether I could actually write a Sherlockian tale and my usual self-doubt that always comes up whenever I write anything, it was an overall terrific experience, and in fact, might even try my hand at another Sherlock story set in that same world–pre-World War I New Orleans. It really was quite fun, and I am even now thinking that perhaps more Sherlockian style stories could work very well in my Monsters of New Orleans collection I’ve been wanting to write for quite some time now.

Things to ponder. But often when something goes really well for me I tend to dip into the well again, with unpleasant and/or disappointing results. Perhaps it’s best to just take the win and be done with it.

Facebook memories showed me the cover of Murder in the Rue Dauphine (or rather, the original cover; it’s had three) yesterday along with my post that the book was 15 years old at the time of the cover posting. It rather staggered me to realize that my first novel would now be able to vote, were it an actual person…and I actually started writing the book in 1998; which is twenty-two years ago. That’s kind of staggering–and yet another reminder that yes, Greg, you’re old.

I’m already worn out and it’s only Tuesday, which certainly doesn’t bode week, does it? Heavy sigh. We’re still watching The Club, which only has two episodes left–we’ll undoubtedly finish that tonight and then get caught up on Perry Mason, leaving the decision of what to watch next till Wednesday night–and I’m kind of hopeful that today will be a better, less draining day than yesterday was; hope does, as I often say, spring eternal. The heat and humidity, missing over the weekend, also returned with a bit of a vengeance yesterday–which could have been a significant part of the feeling drained last night. We’re still in a flash flood watch until 7 pm tonight, so maybe it’ll rain a lot and cool things down briefly again. We did have rain yesterday, but it didn’t seem that bad at the office–which is not, as anyone who lives here knows, an indicator of how the rain is going in the rest of the city. It could be raining at the office and the sun shining at the Lost Apartment, for example.

I need to find the time and energy to write, quite frankly. I think part of my malaise in life–and why my temper is so short lately–has everything to do with not having the time or energy to write more. The only joy I’ve had in the last few weeks has been the editorial notes on “The Affair of the Purloined Rentboy,” and the overwhelmingly positive response from the editor to “Night Follows Night.” Writing is my happiness, really, even when it’s frustrating and going well; when I’m writing I am happy, usually–and happier when it’s going badly than I am when I am not writing. Whenever I am having a bad day–as yesterday was–whenever I am tired and angry and drained, what I really need to do is open something I’m writing that isn’t finished and work on it. It will always calm me, take me out of the bad mood, and put me back into a better place. My creativity needs an outlet, and when I deny that outlet and keep it inside of me, my moods and everything else always seem to suffer for it.

So, with that in mind, as I head into the spice mines for today, here are the opening paragraphs of my first-ever Sherlock pastiche.

In those first few years during which I shared the upper floors at 821 B Royal Street with Mr Sherlock Holmes, it was my custom to rise early in the mornings and take a walk on the earthen levee containing the mighty river. Holmes was by habit a late riser, rarely springing out of bed before the noon-time whistle rang along the waterfront, but taking such exercise was good for the damage to my leg caused by the wound – a souvenir of the Spanish War.

I enjoyed those quiet, early mornings, watching the ships sailing up the river to the docks from foreign ports, and the barges floating down the currents from points as far north as Cincinnati, St. Louis and Memphis, all while I strolled with my walking stick along the levee. Seeing the large bales of cotton being unloaded as the morning mists arose from the dark muddy water, the unloading of crates of coffee and bananas from the central American republics, I marveled each morning at the hubbub of activity that created and maintained this most curious of American cities, rising from the swamps like something from a forgotten myth.

After, I would adjourn to my favorite café, the Aquitaine, mere blocks from my home, where I would read the morning papers while enjoying coffee and Italian pastries.

This particular morning in early December, I cut my morning walk short. The temperature had dropped most precipitously overnight, and I had not chosen a heavy enough jacket. My leg ached terribly from the damp and the cold, and I limped along the banquettes to the café. My usual table was in the back, away from the hustle and bustle and smells of Royal Street. In those days, the French Quarter stank to high heaven, malignant odors hanging in the thick wet air from breweries and sugar refineries and, of course, seafood. Holmes often burned heavily scented candles in the various rooms of our apartments, particularly the parlor whose windows opened out onto our third-floor balcony facing Royal Street.

Sail Away

So I went ahead and sent out three stories on submission yesterday; “This Thing of Darkness,” “Night Follows Night”, and the Sherlock story. Will any of them actually be accepted? Who knows, but that’s all part and parcel of the joy of being a writer who likes to write short stories despite being rarely asked to write them. I have like 86 short stories in some form of progress now, but it felt really good to write finis on these and sent them out. If they are rejected, oh well; I’ll just save them for my next short story collection.

See how that works? Staying positive is always a plus, you know?

And last night before I went to bed I checked the Pandora’s Box known more commonly as my email inbox to discover a delightful email from the editor of the Sherlock anthology that she loves the new edition of the story and is sending me a contract! How absolutely delightful. I am glad “The Affair of the Purloined Rentboy” will see print, and as always, it’s lovely to get that kind of affirmation. It’s also a period piece, which was just as daunting as writing a Holmes story set in New Orleans–the only rule for the anthology was that it couldn’t be set in London, and Holmes and Watson couldn’t be English. So I made Holmes a Louisianan–and we never are quite sure where Watson is from. But it was great fun, challenging, and very, as I said, daunting. While I’ve read the Holmes stories–and the Nicholas Meyer novels, and other stories written by modern day Sherlockians (notably, Lyndsay Faye and Laurie King), I don’t think of myself as an avid Sherlockian. Even now, I cannot think of the plot of either A Scandal in Bohemia or The Red-headed League.

So, I wasn’t a hundred percent certain I could write such a story that would be worthy of publication, but it was a challenge–and I do enjoy challenges. I like pushing myself as a writer, trying something different, seeing if I can continue to grow as a writer. (But just between you and me, the only reason I even thought I could possibly do this was because it was specified not to be canon–no London, not the late nineteenth century, no need for continuity. No, this was a way I could write a Sherlock story and make it entirely my own as well. And of course, setting it in 1916 was also a bit of a challenge for me as well; I’ve never done much period/historical writing, and since I knew, once the title came to me, that Storyville had to be involved (how else could one write “The Affair of the Purloined Rentboy” and not involve Storyville?), which presented a host of other issues. Fortunately, I’ve been reading lots of New Orleans history lately, and one of the books was about Storyville: Gary Krist’s Empire of Sin (highly recommended, by the way), and in a short story I wouldn’t have to have the ongoing detail a novel would require, so I thought, fuck it, let’s give it a shot.

I was also able to use one of the locations I often use in Scotty books, the Hotel Aquitaine, which made it even more fun for me.

So, apparently, the thinking positive thing might actually work. How lovely!

Also, yesterday I (the ever-present resident Luddite) managed to figure out how to go back and read the chat from the Queer Noir at the Bar reading on Friday night–I kept accidentally closing it, and when I was reading I never looked at it–and wow. Everyone was so gracious and kind about my reading! I’m glad, though, that I wasn’t reading the chat while I was reading because it would have freaked me out. Thank you all for being so kind.

I also started reading Kelly J. Ford’s Cottonmouths, and as I read, I began to remember why I hesitated to read it. Being from the South, and from a particularly poor part of the South, I sometimes have trouble reading about that world; because of the memories it brings back, and while Ford’s prose is magnificently beautiful, she also brought me right into a world I know so well–a world I’ve been trying to shake off my entire life. There’s probably something to be said, or perhaps written, about my struggle with where I am from; the deep pride instilled in me my entire childhood about being Southern and the defensiveness that automatically arises whenever someone else is critical of (what I still think of) as home; and how that pride also runs concurrent with a river of shame–two rivers, running parallel, a kind of Tigris and Euphrates within my soul, my psyche, my being. I’ve started and never finished any number of stories and novels set in Alabama; my files run over with them. Bury Me in Shadows is the first manuscript set in Alabama I’ve ever finished a full draft of (there are a couple of short stories I’ve finished; Dark Tide is also set in Alabama but down in a little town on Mobile Bay–which isn’t quite the same thing), and I have yet to complete it enough to turn it into my publisher. Reading Kelly’s book takes me to the same places Daniel Woodrell’s work takes me, or Ace Atkins’ The Ranger series…that inner conflict, that inability to decide, that pride of place and where I come from coupled with shame. I could see it all so clearly in my head as I read that first chapter…she may have been writing about rural Arkansas but it could have been rural Alabama. It’s real, it’s vivid, and it’s beautiful.

The rural south is savage in its beauty.

My whole life has really been about dualities; being Southern but not growing up there; closeted self v. authentic self; being a writer but also always having some other job for whatever reason. My identity has always been sort of splintered; it’s probably why I am so constantly down on myself because I never really feel whole, or like I fit in somewhere–because I’ve been outside my entire life.

And, I have found few things trigger me to dark emotion–anger or depression–than being reminded that I am an outsider.

We started watching Perry Mason, and we’re enjoying it–but it’s really not Perry Mason. It’s something entirely else, with the characters given the same names as the ones Erle Stanley Gardner used. The cast is fantastic, and it’s a terrific noir series (if a bit reminiscent of Penny Dreadful: City of Angels–which we stopped watching, for reasons that are not pertinent here), so we will keep watching–but, it’s not really the same show or characters.

And it makes me want to reread one of the originals again.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me.

Two Divided by Zero

My COVID test came back negative again, so I was right, I guess; dehydration and exhaustion combined in a 1-2 punch to send me reeling and off my game. My stomach is still messed up–sometimes stuff doesn’t go right through me, but most of the time it absolutely does–but that’s just how it is and we have to get on with life somehow. I am really sick of this, and I am going to be calling my doctor’s office later today. My doctor moved away, and I’ve been delaying dealing with contacting their office to get a new one, so now I guess I am in a position where I have to–in other words, moved to action because I have no other choice.

That happens a lot more than one might think, since my usual default is lethargy.

I revised my Sherlock story yesterday, so yes, I actually did get some writing done, and it wasn’t as easy as I might have liked but on the other hand, it also could have been much harder. There were a couple of times I was ready to throw in the towel and say hey I got something done at least, but forced myself to keep going. Now I’m going to let it sit for a few days before I polish it, and hopefully in the meantime i can get some other writing done. I know part of the weird emotional state I find myself in these days has more to do with the not writing than anything else; when I am not working on some form of writing, I’m always down. After I finished working on the story yesterday I felt fantastic; that adrenaline rush only matched by the one that comes from endorphins after a good workout. I’ve not been to the gym in over a week, either–I’ve neither had the energy nor felt well enough to actually go, plus not wanting to put people at risk…but I am going to have to start thinking about when I can go back again.

As a result of remembering a story I’d started a few weeks ago and completely forgotten about, I decided to make a list of all the stories and things I have in progress at the current time. It was quite eye-opening; eighty nine short stories in some degree of completion; seven novellas in the same situation; and two novels. This is what I mean by my creative ADHD; many of the stories are no more than 500 words (I made a point of not counting the ones that are just a title and an opening sentence or paragraph) but some of them have been through multiple drafts and still others have a first draft completed. I posted about it on social media, and based on the reactions I received, I realized two things: one, that I now understand why people call me prolific and two, the reason I think I am lazy and don’t ever get anything done is precisely because I have so many works in progress that are not completed. Add to that the reality that I constantly get new ideas for stories, novellas, and novels all the time, and you begin to see why I am so rough on myself when it comes to this sort of thing. I am trying to be better about being hard on myself–there’s a strong sense, though, that without being hard on myself I wouldn’t get as much done; but at the same time, I’m not getting much done these days…but I think this shift is necessary in order to delete negativity out of my life. There’s already so much negativity in the world I don’t need to create more for my life and career. But I need to get moving on the Secret Project, and now that this revision is behind me, I have some time to work on it now.

We finished season one of Elite last night and started season two, and I have to say–if you’ve not watched this show, you absolutely must. The story moves like a runaway freight train, the plot is incredibly intricate, intertwined, and complicated. The writing is stellar and the acting–the gorgeous young actors who make up the cast–is also topnotch. It’s so much better than 13 Reasons Why, and its approach to alternate sexualities is much better–considering this is a Spanish show, and I’ve always considered Spain to be conservative and Catholic, again shows how wrong you can be when you make assumptions about values and beliefs. It’s even hard to encapsulate the ongoing storylines on the show because so much happens and it moves so fast. It’s less like Edge of Night in terms of crime/soap hybrids than it is a Spanish, prep school version of How to Get Away With Murder–which we never finished watching the final season of, because it’s plot is so complicated we lost track and literally had no idea what was going on anymore.

And on that note, time to get back to the spice mines. Have a lovely Monday, one and all.

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In case you’ve been wondering, Constant Reader, my blog titles are usually song titles; back when I first started doing that, I just used whatever song was playing on the stereo or my iPod (remember those?) when I started writing the entry. I’ve tried not to use the same title twice, but after fifteen years or so it’s kind of hard not to. I started using the Top 100 lists from certain years, but those got exhausted after a few years, and now I’ve moved on to singles by the Pet Shop Boys….many of their titles are awesome and wry and witty; today’s, I am not so sure about, hence my decision to explain.

It’s been a very exhausting week, and I am bone tired. I’ve not been to the gym this week at all; I will assess how I feel tomorrow about going; I can certainly, in a worst case, go on Saturday. There’s a tropical storm out in the Gulf heading our way, the country has seemingly gone mad, and sometimes I just feel so completely overwhelmed I don’t even want to get out of bed, let alone check social media or my emails.

But I persist.

Today wasn’t quite so bad as I feared when I started writing this post this morning; it was actually rather pleasant. The sad thing is I am starting to adjust physically to the heat and humidity; they did get us an enormous fan and a couple of smaller ones–but when I had to go into the building to do my timesheet and send my activity log to my supervisor I thought it was freezing inside the building–and had the same experience when I stopped at the grocery store. Naturally, the first floor of the Lost Apartment and my kitchen/office is miserable, even with the ceiling fans on, but I ordered two of those small, portable Arctic air conditioners–a co-worker highly recommended them–and when they arrive, we’ll see how they work.

I do think I am going to be able to sleep tonight. I am feeling sleepy–my mind is still going strong though–but I guess we will see. We started watching a show called London Kills on Acorn, and are enjoying it–we gave up on Dead Still after two episodes because it was, while very well acted and produced, kind of slow and not as interesting or engaging as I would have hoped.

Well, it’s now Friday morning and I’ve actually skipped a blog day. Shortly after I wrote the above I got so sleepy I barely managed to make it upstairs and into bed before sleepwalking, seriously, and I slept very well last night. I could have stayed in bed easily for another hour or so, but I have things to do and work to get to and so forth. But it feels absolutely lovely to have rested–perhaps tonight I will rest again–and maybe I can make some progress on work i have to do.

I got some glorious short story feedback on a submission I’d sent out, and am really looking forward to revising it. This is “The Affair of the Purloined Rentboy,” for those of you keeping track; the Sherlock story which was very far outside my comfort zone. I do think the notes I got will make it a much better, and stronger, story; and I am going to trust my instincts–as I read the notes, ideas began to form in my head on how to make this story stronger and better, and I couldn’t be more pleased.

And on that note, with the Gulf Coast now under a hurricane warning, I shall head back into the spice mines.

It Always Comes as a Surprise

Yesterday was unusual in that it was a Saturday where I actually had to interact with the outside world more than I usually do on a given Saturday: I had a business conference call at noon, and then last night I did a live reading and discussion of my story for The Faking of the President, edited by Peter Carlaftes and the event was in conjunction with the Golden Notebook bookstore in Woodstock, California. Also reading were Abby L. Vandiver, Alison Gaylin, and Kate Flora. It was very interesting and fun, and my story, of course, is “The Dreadful Scott Decision.” I didn’t spend much time writing yesterday, but I do think I solved some of my computer issues with the desktop; at least it is working fine for now and not making me want to smash it into little pieces with a hammer. We shall see how it goes from now on, however; I reserve the right to lose my temper over it wasting enormous amounts of my time going forward.

It was fun talking about presidents, and history, and my story last evening. The story was fun to write, once I figured out what I was going to write about and how to frame the story. As I have said repeatedly, short stories are difficult for me to write, and I think part of the reason I enjoy them so much–both writing and reading–is because they are a challenge for me; plus, I can explore something–style, character, voice, etc.–vastly different from what I usually do, which I think also helps me become a better writer. I will always accept an invitation to write for an anthology or a magazine or something to challenge myself. The Sherlock Holmes story was a challenge for me–I still don’t know if they are going to use  it, or if it’s going to come back to me all marked up with lots of revision requested, or it’s going to be passed on–but once I got into the rhythm of the voice and the period, it was kind of a fun challenge. I’ve even thought about writing another one, which is really crazy when you think about it. I have never been a Sherlockian, although I’ve always appreciated the character and the importance of the stories to the history of crime fiction–seriously, where would any of us be without Holmes?–but it’s not like I’ve joined any fan groups, or have considered writing pastiches before…I certainly wouldn’t have written this one had I not been asked–and I do think it could be fun to write other Holmes stories set in that pre-American participation in WWI period, from say around 1912-1917, and maybe even beyond. It could, for example, be a lot of fun to write a story around German espionage in New Orleans, and it’s a very interesting time in New Orleans history. Maybe “The Affair of the Purloined Rentboy” could turn into the start of a whole new direction for me. Who knows? That’s the fun thing about short stories–you’re never sure where writing one might wind up leading you.

But I have my entire day free today, and I am going to shortly adjourn to my easy chair to drink more coffee and read more of The Red Carnelian before I buckle down to my own writing. I am hoping to get a lot of progress on the Secret Project done today, and maybe some work on one of my short stories, perhaps even one of the novellas. I just realized next weekend is actually a three-day weekend–where has May gone already?–and so I should also be able to get a shit ton done next weekend….or at least, so one might think.

Paul and I also started watching The Great on Hulu last night, with Elle Fanning as Catherine the Great. It’s a sort of based on the real story, but a lot liberties are taken with actual history (for one example, Catherine’s husband was not the son of Peter the Great but his grandson; his aunt Elizabeth was actually the empress and selected Catherine as his wife for him–and he didn’t rule for long after Elizabeth died before Catherine usurped his throne. However, the time between Catherine’s arrival in Russia and her seizure of the throne was about twenty years or so; she was no longer a young woman when she became empress–but you can’t spread this story out over twenty years or the series wouldn’t be very interesting.

I also like that they admit up front they are taking liberties; as opposed to The Tudors or The White Queen, which also did but didn’t admit it. It’s also written by the same guy who wrote The Favourite, and the entire show has a similar feel to that movie.

And now, tis back to the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader–I know I intend to!

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